Saturday, January 19, 2008

Burgundy Ties It All Together...

This front yard that I designed a few years ago is really starting to come together. It's my favorite garden of my career, partly because of the challenge of a very small lot mixed with clients with adventurous taste and a lust for many plants. The key to taming a lot of variety is to have a harmonizing theme, in this case, burgundy foliage and "trim."

If you've read this blog before, you know that I'm all about balancing harmony and contrast. So here's the recipe.

Obviously, the dominant player in this section of the front yard is the Canadian Redbud (like Canada doesn't already rock!) with it's heart-shaped leaves, stunning tiny deep pink flowers before the leaves pop, and an "architecture" that creates horizontal planes of foliage. The big contrast is the yellow flowering Poker Plant (Kniphofia 'Malibu') with its strong upright form, grassy leaves and brilliant flowers. You have to admit that it's pretty much the antithesis of the Redbud.

But growing right under the Redbud is Cape Reed (Chondropetalum tectorum) which at a quick glance appears to be a stiff, tall grass. It's actually in the Restio family (South Africa), which commonly share a brownish sheath that drops off in summer to reveal a brown band at regular intervals along each leaf. The brown band, though subtle, closely resembles the burgundy foliage of the tree, so a harmonizing element is brought in, even though the forms of the two plants vary wildly.

Now for something to pick up the foliage color of the Redbud, but in a completely different form.

Behold the plum-colored Persicaria 'Red Dragon', a vigorous perennial related to Knotweed (Polygonum). It gets about 3' high, sprawls to about 5' wide, but takes well to being whacked back heavily at least once (and sometimes twice) a year. It's controllable, but give it space, because it's one of the most graceful plants when you let it do its thing. Persicaria even has a dainty white flower for most of the growing season.

This last shot shows the back side of the same bed, shot through the foliage of my favorite grass - Miscanthus 'Morning Light'.

The blue flower / silver foliage perennial is Germander Sage (Salvia chamaedryoides), with one of the two Redbuds in the background. Again, the silver provides a stark contrast, but it's all balanced out by the dominant burgundy foliage of the key players.

Perhaps you can't grow these exact plant combinations in your area, but use this as a template for combining a few of your local plants and you'll have a fun composition.


Leslie said...

Nice! It has grown up to be really quite impressive. I happen to like burgundy a lot so I may need to use a few of these ideas!

Angie said...

The Canadian Redbud is beautiful! I don't think I've seen one before. We have what we call a Redbud, but it's leaves are green. I love the Poker Plant also, and the contrast is wonderful!

No Rain said...

The yellow-green against the burgandy is lovely. I like to mix purple prickly pear with plants in shades of chartruese, which is similar to your mix. Soon, desert blue bell wildflowers will be coming up, along with California poppies (an orange-yellow) and that combo is also spectacular.
Happy GTS,

yes said...

Hello. I just discovered your blog today and have been having a great time sifting back through previous posts. I use a lot of Cercis in my gardens so I particularly enjoyed your " harmony" today. What zone do you garden in. I am North of Vancouver, Canada ( we do rock ) and garden in a zone 7.

mmw said...

You need bigger pictures, man. That S. chamaedryoides (an awesome plant) doesn't even look silver! And the shade of blue doesn't seem right either.

Deviant Deziner said...

L-O-V- E , love, love the textural and color layering.
I would have thought that the tall strappy foliage of the Kniphopia next to the thin reed like foliage of the Chondropetalum would have be to similar to one another , thus not creating enough contrast, but judging from the photo, they look great paired up together , especially in front of the bronze leafed Cercis.

Yummy !

Garden Wise Guy said...

Garden Wise Guy response:
"Yes" - I'm in Sunset zone 24 (I guess that's USDA 10) or Southern California coastal. A few hits of frost in low lying areas, but occasional dips into the high 20 F. I'm glad you're enjoying poking around the blog. It's intermittent but passionate. I'll be over to check you out as soon as I finish here.

MMW: Sorry 'bout the mini-shot with the S. cham. It was from an old slide I had and that's the best I could do. It is a stunning plant and the powder blue on silver enhances any scheme. Prepare for a visitor!

Your Deviance: Sometimes I don't pay particular attention to every nuance in matching up foliage, but this one just seemed to flow together. Kind of a happy accident with the Poker plant and the Cape Reed. Sometimes a subtle variation is enough when there's a lot of other visual info going on.

No Rain: LOVE the bluish opuntias...the first time I saw one in a picture I thought it was a Photoshop enhancement. I think pairing it with chartreuse would increase my blood pressure in a very fine way.

Angie: I've used the standard Redbud (we also have a California native species called C. occidentalis that's more shrubby), but prefer the added value of the burgundy foliage.

Yolanda Elizabet said...

Love that Canadian Redbud, have you got its botanical name, Billy? We tend to have different common names for many a plant or shrub over here.
That plum-coloured Persicaria is a winner too but why oh why do you spoil everything with those horrible pokers (Kniphofia)? ;-) There's no accounting for taste, is there?